With a quirky name, you may ask, “What is TunnelBear?” TunnelBear is a user-friendly VPN, and doesn’t bombard users with jargon.
It is now owned by the US internet security company McAfee.
It comes with some useful features, whereas it lacks in other departments. Performance can be somewhat middle of the road, so does this VPN do enough to redeem itself?
This TunnelBear review looks at this VPN in depth to see if it is worth your time and your money.
- New users find this VPN easy to setup and use
- Great for use on public Wi-Fi hotspots
- Suitable for families who just want secure connections
- Good for people in restrictive countries
Plans and Pricing
Unlike a lot of VPN vendors, TunnelBear does offer a free version. This is though meant as a test of their service.
It isn’t something that can be used long term unless you just need protection when on public Wi-Fi.
The TunnelBear Free only offers 500BM of data per month, so this will be quickly gobbled up if there is anything more than email and browsing. It is a step up from using other so-called free VPN’s.
|1 Year||$4.99 per month||Billed as $59.88 every 12 months|
|Monthly||$9.99||Billed as $9.99 monthly|
One thing that is good to see is they now include a 30-day money back guarantee, which used to be lacking.
Payment options are still very limited to credit cards and Bitcoin. On a yearly basis, it works out affordable, yet the monthly price doesn’t place it much different to market leaders.
While the feature set is maybe lacking, the privacy side of things is very different. Encryption is top level with AES 256-bit OpenVPN for use on Windows, Mac, and Android.
The TunnelBear Mac iOS encryption used IKEv2/ IPSec. This is because of the restrictions with the iPhone operating system, and not lacking in the TunnelBear app.
Operational data is collected, this includes the OS version, the TunnelBear app version, and if you have been active in the month and bandwidth used.
While this is in line with a lot of other VPN companies, TunnelBear went a step further with an independent audit on the servers, code, and the system as a whole.
The results were not perfect, and any company which would come out clear will appear suspicious.
The vulnerabilities, which were found, were fixed, as can be testified by testing and no WebRTC leaks or DNS leaks were found.
Ease of Use
TunnelBear supports 5 simultaneous device connections.
When it comes to VPN apps, TunnelBear is a bit on the thin side. It supports Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS.
This is very sparse compared to other VPNs, which support lots of other devices all the way to router installations.
Signing up is straightforward due to the limited payment options. All you need to do is head to the main page and click on the “Get TunnelBear” button.
On the next page, you can select the free plan, the monthly, or the yearly plan. On the next page, you enter your payment details for your credit card or change plan if you wish to use Bitcoin.
Add your address, and then hit the large “Buy Now” button.
Once you receive your confirmation email, you will have links to download the apps for your devices and other account details.
As soon as you download TunnelBear, you will see there is a very simplistic approach. In the installation steps, this goes as far to use very quirky terms such as unboxing the bear, brushing fur and greasing the tunnels among others.
Once installed, the interface is cartoonlike and friendly. You are presented with a colorful world map where the countries where there are servers are displayed.
You will see, you can’t change the server, and you can only select the country of connection
When doing this TunnelBear VPN review, we found the service wasn’t packed with features as other vendors offer.
The two of the most significant features are the Vigilant Bear. This is their interpretation of a kill switch.
A kill switch is vital to prevent any leaks of your IP address is you lose your VPN connection. As soon as this drops, all your other apps will cease from connection to the internet until your VPN connection is re-established.
The second feature is the GhostBear mode. This will make your data appear as if it is regular data rather than that coming from a VPN server.
This can be good in some instances such as bypassing geo-restrictions for streaming but in the case of TunnelBear.
This obfuscation feature is more suited for users who are behind country restrictions such as China, North Korea, etc. This isn’t enabled by default and needs to be turned on from the settings.
TunnelBear has browser extensions for Opera, Firefox and Chrome. These allow you to select locations and connect right from the browser without going to the dedicated app.
While this appears to be convenient, these are only operating as proxies, so your data will not be as secure.
TunnelBear Chrome reduces the chances of sites and advertisers tracking your IP. It allows you to unblock websites and protects you on public Wi-Fi.
You can increase your protection by using a server location with the app and then selecting another with the browser.
One other extension is the “Blocker” this the company says blocks you from online tracking which other ad-blockers ignore. Email tracking, ultrasonic tracking, fingerprinting, Adobe Flash are all included.
It says you can browse up to 5 times faster while being more private and taking control back for your online experience.
TunnelBear download speeds leave a lot to be desired in some areas. Around Europe delivered good speeds apart from Ireland, which delivered slow results.
The US was much the same as around Europe, which you would expect, as these are the two areas where there is a buildup of servers.
When going over longer distances toward Asia and Australia, the speeds were up and down.
This could be server overload, which is quite possible with such a small network.
Unlike a top rated VPN, customer support is lacking. While everything is easy to use, there is only a help page where you type your questions.
For new users, this may be hard to understand what to ask and what to do with the answers.
Aside from this, there is only an email ticket system. Response to questions can take a while to receive, and if the issue isn’t resolved, you can find another wait of a few hours.
This streaming service is one of the selling points of any VPN, and one of the best tests. The Bear VPN came up short.
On the odd occasion, you can bypass the checks from Netflix, but this fails more often than not.
You can reliably say it doesn’t unblock Netflix, and adding to this, the BBC iPlayer has the same level of access results.
Torrenting at one stage on TunnelBear wasn’t allowed. However, you can use the TunnelBear VPN for downloading torrents on all their servers.
The service doesn’t advertise the fact they allow torrents, and when asking, the response said to use the servers in Netherlands, Romania, Sweden, and Germany above the US, UK and Canada.
Speeds may be slow, so you can find yourself waiting longer than usual for a download.
TunnelBear is often looked at as the best cheap VPN. Yet, things change fast in the world of VPN’s, and nothing more than pricing and special offers.
To be a viable option, VPN’s do need to deliver performance, security, and fulfill all the needs of the users.
TunnelBear, unfortunately, comes up short in several areas. It may be good for new users who only want a secure connection, but outside that, it has nothing much to offer.
It is far from the largest and fastest VPN, but it is easy to use with plenty of security.